The way we move shapes our bodies
The way we move shapes our bodies
When we look at people’s bodies as they age, it is easy to see how a person has lived.
If a person has done a lot of physical exercise – high intensity exercise – it makes sense to us when they get wear and tear arthritis, wear and tear on the joints, aches and pains from muscles strains, tears and sprains, and simple mechanical strains. If joints have been overloaded and overused with repetitive high impact strain, then it makes sense that the bones and the joints become shaped in a certain way. It then makes sense that there will be wear and tear on joints from the strain that they have been under.
But what of the people who are older? Particularly those women of the generation who are currently 70-80. Exercising was not part of their culture. They haven’t done extreme sports. They haven’t played rugby. They haven’t done a lot of running. They haven’t played AFL. They haven’t been bungy jumping. They haven’t been engaging in rigorous concreting activities on a construction site.
So what have they been doing?
A lot of these women have led largely sedentary lives. Exercising was seen as being separate to life, was not considered to be ladylike and not something that they were raised with. Sweating was not considered to be elegant and active wear was not even a twinkle in someone’s eye back then.
Most of these ladies have NOT been so called physically active and have not done manual labour. Yet so many of these women are stooped over – bent over with aches and pains from bent and twisted spines, ruptured and torn muscles, and waddling ways of walking because of the weakness in their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and osteoarthritis of their hips and lower spines. They get osteoarthritis in many joints and a lot of pain.
It’s not just exercise that shapes our bodies.
What is very clear to me through my observations as a health professional to thousands of people over the years is that the way that we move our bodies in every single moment, repetitively so, shapes our bodies and our skeletal systems.
These ladies have lived their lives in a certain way. They have clearly moved their bodies and held their bodies in huge tension through their lives. Many of the bodies that I examine professionally have very tight, hard muscles which are either numb or more commonly by the time people see me, very, very painful to touch. But why is this so if there have been no rigorous forms of extreme exercise?
Daily life is painful for our bodies. We move our bodies in tension every single day. I have observed in myself and in many of my clients that we hold our bodies in tension in so many different parts at so many different times. These tense muscles move the joints and hold the joints at certain angles, and then the joints have to move at certain angles which are not natural or optimal for them.
If joints are weight-loaded and more stress is put across them then it makes sense that they can get wear and tear in them. Of course.
Imagine permanent tension being applied across your joints such that they are never left in a position that is mechanically optimal for them, and they are asked to move and perform movements in order for the body to function day after day after day, ongoingly for 50 or 60 years or more.
I see people as they age sequentially getting more and more bent over and more and more bent in the joints. This is a process that happens in and with time. It doesn’t happen immediately but the changes are progressive which is understandable. If joints are repeatedly and ongoingly loaded by the same forces and tensions, which remain uncorrected, then of course the natural trajectory is going to be change to biomechanical angles and function.
The body is a biological system that is adaptive. The cells respond to the stresses and strains that they are under and our bones remodel according to the stresses and strains that they are under. The body is not static. It is not solid like a piece of machinery that does not change unless the parts literally wear out. Before our body actually breaks, the skeletal system adapts to the strains that it is under for the bones to remodel.
Hence our posture and the position and the shape of our bones change and adapt first, and then we get the impact more permanently on the skeletal system.
Exercise is vital for our wellbeing, but how we move in every moment of every day is equally important in shaping the health and wellbeing of our bodies.
How do you move?
- Are you aware of your body and the tension that you are holding in your body, moment by moment, day by day?
- How do you observe your body being affected by the way it is being moved?
- Have you considered that how you move daily could have an impact on your body?
- How might your body be shaped and move and function in the future by the quality of your movements?